Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
HART, Billy(b 29 November 1940, Washington DC) Drummer, leader, composer; one of the most sought-after sidemen for decades, playing on over 500 albums. His first steady gigs were with singer Shirley Horn and tenor saxophonist Buck Hill, both also from Washington. Horn was an underrated pianist; Hart played on her Steeplechase albums and some of her early Verves, and credited her with teaching him a lot about music. In the 1960s he toured with Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery, Eddie Harris, and Pharoah Sanders; in the 1970s he had steady gigs with Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and Stan Getz. In the 1980s he worked with Gerry Mulligan, Billy Harper, Clark Terry, The New York Jazz Quartet, the Jazztet, Mingus Dynasty, and extensively with Quest (David Liebman, Ritchie Beirach, and Ron McClure).
In the early 1990s Hart turned more to teaching, especially at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, but also at the New England Conservatory of Music, Western Michigan University, and privately through The New School and New York University. He has also done summer camps and workshops. A long interview (with Ethan Iversen) at billyhartmusic.com reveals that Hart must be a qualified teacher, because he himself has never stopped learning; what he has to say about the post-war history of jazz playing and about the whole of world music coming full circle is immensely thought-provoking.
Hart also continued performing in the 1990s, as a member of the Charles Lloyd, Joe Lovano, and Tom Harrell groups, and in 1999 he was working with The Three Tenors (Liebman, Lovano, and Michael Brecker). He also added to his session credits that year on The Minor Passions on Fresh Sounds New Talent, with younger guys Reid Anderson and Ethan Iverson, who shortly thereafter became 2/3 of The Bad Plus.
Hart's relatively few recordings as a leader include Enchance '77 on A&M Horizon, with Dewey Redman, Marvin 'Hannibal' Peterson, Eddie Henderson, Oliver Lake, Don Pullen, Buster Williams, and Dave Holland; Such Great Friends '83 on Strata East, with Billy Harper, Stanley Cowell, and Reggie Workman; Oshumare '85 on Gramavision, with Steve Coleman, Branford Marsalis, Didier Lockwood, Kenny Kirkland, Bill Frisell, Kevin Eubanks, Mark Grey, and Holland. These were followed by a quintet set, Great Friends '86 on Evidence, with Sonny Fortune, Harper, Cowell, and Workman; then back on Gramavision for Rah '87 with another larger group of the usual suspects, this time including Bill Frisell. On Arabesque were Amethyst '93 and Oceans of Time '96 with similar septets including John Stubblefield. The Billy Hart Quartet 2005 on High Note included Iverson, Mark Turner, and Ben Street.